Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lucky Unlucky 13

Thirteen years lucky or unlucky? That’s the question. The years themselves have been wonderful, but it strikes me as curious that it was all nearly taken away from me in the thirteenth year of our marriage. And if it had ended differently, I definitely would have considered it an extremely unlucky Year 13! But alas, here I sit next to my Nicolas driving through Page, Arizona, on our way to Las Vegas - because isn’t that where everyone spends Thanksgiving?

Actually, if there’s anything I’ve learned over the past thirteen years it's that calling it a trip to Vegas was a way to get his three girls to agree to go rock climbing over Thanksgiving break. The Red Rock cliffs are not far away from the lights of the strip.
Far, far away from those lights we celebrated November 18th with a meal cooked entirely by Cayenne. She poured us cocktails and served us cashews to enjoy while she labored in the kitchen over grilled chicken breasts marinated in olive oil and paprika, and a potato and cherry tomato salad with olive oil, lemon and mint (dishes she chose out of a cookbook from Ilona and Michel). For dessert she baked my Mom’s ginger cookies, a recipe Cayenne has made her specialty. What a wonderful anniversary!

So do I consider myself lucky Nick and I are still together to celebrate? Absolutely. Was it lucky he had to go through this nightmare? Absolutely not. Does it matter what I call it? No.

I’m just going to enjoy every minute we have.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Wilsons

Some weeks ago we spent Acacia's birthday over at the Wilsons with the Hamiltons, and I have to say, it was a bit on the crazy side. The Wilsons are rough, wild and outrageous. And as much as I'd love to tell you that they are our new friends who enjoy a good party, they are actually a ruggedly stunning range of mountains.

The Hamiltons, on the other hand, are our new friends, and having them climb with us that gorgeous September weekend was a treat. We first met Andrew and his sons Calvin and Axel on San Luis. They were on their way up as we were coming down, and we stopped to chat. I had a good feeling about this family, so when we got to the trail head I left a note on their car. Andrew emailed and we kept in touch until our next climb, which turned out to be one of the hardest we've done. 

This is a good thing, because Andrew knows what he's doing in the mountains. Nick has always carried the burden of leading, making the decisions and shouldering all the responsibility, and it was very clear he enjoyed being able to share it this time.

Andrew and Calvin drove seven hours (from Denver), we drove two, and we all arrived at the trail head within ten minutes of each other. A short two and a half hour hike through meadows and over log bridges and we were looking for a camping spot.

The kids wanted to pitch the tents next to the river under a canopy of trees (i.e. stop walking now) but Nick likes to camp where we can see the mountains we've come to enjoy, so he headed up a steep slope to scope things out.

His efforts were well rewarded when he came across a beautiful hiker wearing nothing but her boots. ha! Poor girl; all she wanted to do was be one with nature, but unfortunately with our crowd she was seven with nature.

The campsite was perfect; it had water nearby, lots of firewood, and an unobstructed view of the peaks we'd be getting to know intimately.

Calvin and Acacia were soon inseparable. Cut from the same cloth, these two kids kindled a friendship that got them up three tough slopes that weekend, and will continue to grow during future adventures, I'm certain. In this photo, they're hanging out in their fort after gathering firewood, while their Dads got the fire going and Cayenne climbed some serious scree as the sun set.


Not so blissful was the crack-o-dawn departure. Even though the weather was truly perfect for climbing and it was the end of September so we didn't have to worry about summer afternoon thunderstorms, we still needed to beat the sun back to the tents. Twelve hours later, as our joints creaked back into camp just as the sun slipped below the horizon, we were glad we'd left when we did.

After singing Happy Birthday to Acacia and giving her some gifts, we hit the trail. The rising sun quickly warmed our bones and treated us to the spectacular show left behind by the previous weekend's freak snowstorm. That weather pattern had thrown a white blanket over a music festival in Telluride, but a warm week had melted the snow on the south side of the mountains, which was good for us this brisk and stunning morning...

...but there were times we had to nip over to the north side, when the south was impassable. This was where I was very happy Andrew was with us. He and Nick were extremely adept at passing kids to each other when the trail was sketchy. As the hours passed I noticed how both Nick and Andrew were treating all three children as their own and it warmed my heart - which, I might add, was occasionally beating in my throat.

Part of the traverse from El Diente (14,159 ft / 4,316 m) to Mt Wilson (14,246 / 4,342 m). 

Acacia received a small gift on each peak (thank you Jeanette)... so turning 9 in the mountains wasn't too bad!

On Sunday we packed up camp, drove around to the other side of the mountains, and started walking up Wilson Peak.

And Acacia and Calvin still had loads to chat about. Anyone who has hiked with Acacia knows that this means Nick and I had a break from having our ears talked off! Apparently, Andrew normally goes through the same thing, and also enjoyed the break.

As we picnicked here, looking at what we'd traversed the day before, I told Nick it was a very good thing we'd already climbed the other two mountains because if I'd seen the ridge from this side first, there was NO WAY we would have done it! Nick replied that he was quite aware of that, and the order of things was no coincidence. Hmm...

Not that this peak didn't have its moments - if you look behind me in this photo you can see the near-vertical snow steps we went down, and then up again later - but it was definitely easier going than the previous day.

Wilson Peak (14,017 ft / 4272 m). Yay!

It felt good to walk back into Fall on the way down. Winter will be here soon enough...


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All Hallows' Eve


That was Cayenne's reaction to the Haunted House at the Elk's Lodge on Friday night. Of course, her sweaty palms still clenched mine in a death grip and just moments before she'd been yelling, "Get me out of here!" I guess she thought we'd already forgotten that bit.

Lucky for her, ten minutes later we were at a party with another haunted house - maybe this one wouldn't be so cheesy? She stood, feet planted: "I am not going in there." I hate to admit that I forced her to, but I wanted her to be able to join in the excitement at school when the other kids would be going on about Sasha's haunted house. Her parents Kris and David did a fabulous job, and Cayenne was suitably horrified. She told me later she was glad she'd gone through it but at the time, when a dead David rose out of his coffin and she ran out screaming, I wasn't so sure...

But isn't that what this whole strange tradition is about?

The weekend started at school on Friday with a costume parade wherein Acacia was a figure skater and Cayenne the Goddess of Autumn.

Unfortunately I decapitated Acacia's great friend Claudia. I had to take the shot quickly before Cayenne's class paraded by.

The snake of kids winds through the school and passes outside where the parents await. Cayenne's class danced to the Monster Mash, and here Acacia's class is watching them boogie by. 

Little Bo Beep is one of Cayenne's closest friends. Behind Bo Beep is "An Open Book." Isn't that awesome? Her homemade costumes are always excellent.

But skates aren't the best footwear to run around in, and Cayenne forgot her leaves at school, so by the evening they'd morphed into a 70s rocker and the Goddess of Spring.

Two more parties on Saturday - including one where we went on a Haunted Hayride, passing tombstones and spiderwebs under trees lit from below by the tractor's lights - and it wasn't even Halloween yet. On Sunday at my hockey game a teammate mentioned he'd heard a senator was trying to pass a bill to make Halloween the last Saturday in October, so it wouldn't ever fall on a school night. I vote "Yea!"

On Monday we walked up to the Thomases' for their annual pre-trick-or-treating taco bar. Kristin made shrunken heads (baked apple faces with clove eyes) for the cider and loads of neighbours came to enjoy it. I love living somewhere long enough to be part of local traditions.

The girls trick-or-treated in a group of about 15 kids. Fun! See Cayenne? It's not all about blood and gore...